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Male Wage Inequality and Marital Dissolution: Is There a Link?

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  • Bellou, Andriana

    ()
    (University of Montreal)

Abstract

After almost a century-long pattern of rising marital instability, divorce rates leveled off in 1980 and have been declining ever since. The timing of deceleration and decline in the rates of marital disruption interestingly coincides with a period of substantial growth in wage inequality. This paper establishes a connection between the two phenomena and explores potential explanations for the underlying link. Using individual data on female marital histories in a duration analysis framework combined with regional and temporal variation in the pattern of male wage dispersion, I show that inequality has a significant stabilizing effect on the marital relationship. Quantitatively, increases in male wage dispersion can roughly explain up to 30% of the fall in the mean separation probability between 1979 and 1990. Several plausible explanations for this relationship are assessed: changes in spousal labor supplies, female wage inequality, income uncertainty, social capital as well as a hypothesis of "on-the-marriage" search. The results are most supportive of the search interpretation. No strong quantitative support was found for the remaining mechanisms.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7331.

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Length: 52 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7331

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Keywords: divorce; wage inequality;

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  1. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," IZA Discussion Papers 2602, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Frankel, D.M., 1996. "The (Retail) Price of Inequality," Papers 23-96, Tel Aviv.
  3. Gregory D. Hess, 2004. "Marriage and Consumption Insurance: What's Love Got to Do with It?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 290-318, April.
  4. Joshua Goldstein, 1999. "The leveling of divorce in the united states," Demography, Springer, vol. 36(3), pages 409-414, August.
  5. Johnson, William R & Skinner, Jonathan, 1986. "Labor Supply and Marital Separation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 455-69, June.
  6. Chiswick, Carmel U & Lehrer, Evelyn L, 1990. "On Marriage-Specific Human Capital: Its Role as a Determinant of Remarriage," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 193-213, October.
  7. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Melvin Stephens Jr., 2001. "Job Displacement, Disability, and Divorce," NBER Working Papers 8578, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Martha J Bailey, 2006. "More Power to the Pill: The Impact of Contraceptive Freedom on Women's Life Cycle Labor Supply," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(1), pages 289-320, 02.
  9. Terra G. McKinnish, 2007. "Sexually Integrated Workplaces and Divorce: Another Form of On-the-Job Search," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(2).
  10. Brigitte C. Madrian & Lars John Lefgren, 1999. "A Note on Longitudinally Matching Current Population Survey (CPS) Respondents," NBER Technical Working Papers 0247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 2003. "Understanding the American Decline in Social Capital, 1952--1998," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(1), pages 17-46, February.
  12. Hey, John D & McKenna, Chris J, 1979. "To Move or Not to Move?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 46(182), pages 175-85, May.
  13. Knack, Stephen & Keefer, Philip, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-88, November.
  14. Becker, Gary S & Landes, Elisabeth M & Michael, Robert T, 1977. "An Economic Analysis of Marital Instability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(6), pages 1141-87, December.
  15. Eric D. Gould & Bruce A. Weinberg & David B. Mustard, 2002. "Crime Rates And Local Labor Market Opportunities In The United States: 1979-1997," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 45-61, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Sonia Oreffice & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2012. "Fat spouses and hours of work: are body and Pareto weights correlated?," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 1-21, December.
  2. Sonia Oreffice & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2012. "A Matter of Weight? The Role of Spouses. Physical Attractiveness on Hours of Work," CHILD Working Papers Series 7, Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics (CHILD) - CCA.

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